Sunday, 27 January 2013

REVIEW - Red Rogue (PC Indie)

We're Going Deeper Underground

Another entry into the ever popular action Roguelike genre, this time hailed by its creator as an unofficial sequel to 1980's Rogue. Red Rogue manages to carve out a niche all of its own due to its stylish and minimal visual approach and deep gameplay. As a Roguelike it conforms to the usual staples seemingly required by law to categorise it as such. It is a dungeon crawler with randomly generated levels and permadeath for your character should you come a cropper during play. While a 2D platformer approach to the genre, much like Spelunky, it borrows heavily from the game that inspired an entire genre, Rogue itself. 

The aim is, as per usual, to find the steps that take you to the floor below. Located somewhere in the depths is the amulet of Yandor (the very same amulet from the original Rogue), which must be obtained before making your way back to the surface. Thankfully, you are not alone on your quest. Joining you is a skeletal minion who fights by your side until the bitter end. He (or she, it is hard to tell the sex of skeletons) is an extremely useful ally, and will not back away from a tough scrap, even if it means certain death. Your character gains experience points by defeating foes and levels up when enough have been collected. Weapons, armour, food and magic items can be collected and equipped to both you and your boney ally, including the dreaded 'cursed' items that can plague a warrior's quest. Enemies get harder and the traps more devious as you descend, so levelling up and finding decent items as you progress is the key to survival. 

The graphics initially seem quite simplistic, and I suppose they are, but the black and white, lo-fi visuals create a dark atmosphere perfectly suited to the gameplay. Plus, the sinister drone music that accompanies you is equally effective in setting the tone. The world is covered in darkness, with only nearby areas becoming visable as you reach them. This 'fog of war' style effect means you must proceed cautiously else you may find yourself running into a group of enemies. There are lots of small details in the tiny pixellated world that bring it to life, such as spiders and rats that occupy the floors (and can be squished underfoot), and the different sections of the world (dungeons, caves, sewers etc) have a slightly different background. The enemies themselves shuffle or scuttle around moaning and grunting, and the massive flow of crimson that spurts forth when attacking them adds colour to the world around you. Many of the deaths are quite comical, with decapitated enemies running around spraying crimson everywhere and heads lying on the floor that are kicked as you run past. Armour comes in the form of various types of headwear and, as changing it also changes your appearance, it can lead to some amusing results. At one stage I was running around the dungeon clad in an grand top hat, with my minion sporting a fetching tiara. There are also red symbols on certain walls that, when read, display amusing hints or messages. It lends the game a slight tongue-in-cheek vibe that works really well.

Attacking is a simple process of walking into the creature and holding towards them, you will then exchange blows until one of you dies. You can, of course, flee should you happen to end up on the receiving end of a beating, or call your minion to your position with a press of the C key to tip the balance in your favour. Weapons range from knives and maces to long range attacks via the bow. Pressing the menu button freezes the action and it is here where you can equip items and eat the hearts you collect from enemies to restore health. The runes that you find along the way can be used to enhance weapons and armour, or eaten by you or your minion for immediate effect. These runes are often unidentified so are used at your own risk, you may receive health regeneration, or get turned into a shuffling zombie. 

Added enjoyment and reward comes from the many secret areas that can be located around the levels. Pressing Z at any time does a search, which shows nearby breakable walls and traps on your mini-map. Traps can be simple spikes, disappearing floors or teleports, but they can be disarmed using the X key, gaining you some XP in the process. The secret areas can reward you with chests containing new items, or sometimes nothing at all, adding to the random element of play. Sometimes you can stumble across a door that allows you to the revisit the surface to restock your health, as well as other, rarer, doors that lead to much stranger places, or respawn your minion if they have already met their demise.

Like any action Roguelike worth its salt (Spelunky, I'm looking at you), Red Rogue is highly addictive and will keep you returning over and over again as you desperately try to get further into the dungeon depths. Be sure to undertake the perilous journey as soon as possible, you may never want to leave.

The Good

  • Atmospheric visuals and music
  • Fast paced action
  • Deep RPG elements
  • Highly Addictive gameplay

The Bad

  • Permadeath - One life to finish the game makes it very difficult

Developer : Aaron Steed
Availability : Out Now on PC & Mac
Price : Free
Website : link